NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Did five students at Columbia University deal drugs to pay their tuition?
The students were charged Tuesday with selling LSD-laced candy and other drugs at three fraternity houses and other residences on the Ivy League campus.
Tuition, fees, room and board at Columbia top $55,000 a year and during the semester-long undercover "Operation Ivy League" some of the defendants justified selling drugs as a way to afford college, officials said.
"This is no way to work your way through college," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Christopher Coles, Harrison David, Adam Klein, Jose Stephen Perez and Michael Wymbs were arrested at dawn on Tuesday at the prestigious school in upper Manhattan, in what authorities have called one of the largest drug takedowns on a New York City college campus in recent memory.
The operation was based on West 114th Street - Columbia's "fraternity row." Investigators said the defendants turned several frat houses into a virtual drug supermarket, reports CBS station WCBS.
"The most surprising aspect was the openness of the drug dealing. It appeared to have been done very cavalierly. In addition, there was a wide range of drugs," NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said.
Authorities said the investigation relied heavily on a youthful undercover officer who posed as a drug middleman for another college outside the city. Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said the officer paid nearly $11,000 for 31 purchases of LSD, marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription stimulants.
Police said most of the arrested students' customers were other students and friends buying smaller amounts for recreational use. The liquid LSD was sold in Altoids and SweeTarts.
The students - all 20-year-olds except Perez, who's 22 - were hauled into a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday afternoon, shackled together and wearing Columbia and fraternity sweat shirts.
They pleaded not guilty to multiple drug dealing charges alleging they were supplied by violent traffickers.The five were to remain in custody until they could make bail ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 in cash.